Early Childhood Resisting punitive ‘reforms’ in early childhood

The Morrison government’s commitment to ongoing funding for four-year-old kindergarten in this year’s federal budget was a significant win, after almost a decade of campaigning by early childhood education advocates. With a federal election on the horizon, the AEU is now calling on the government to extend this investment to funding for three-year-old preschool.

An abundance of research shows that children who have access to two years of high-quality early education delivered by a qualified teacher start school ready to learn and with a stronger foundation for their future. Sadly, the Morrison government continues to ignore this evidence, providing zero funding for three-year-old programs.

The union is also focused on investigating a number of caveats placed on the funding for four-year-olds, including measures of children’s attendance, school readiness and performance. AEU presidents from every state and territory met recently to discuss the preschool bilateral funding agreements, due to be renewed soon.

At these meetings, we discussed the need to push back against the ‘reform agenda’ posed by the Morrison government, including a new Preschool Performance Framework for four-year-old preschool and the link between funding and attendance requirements.

The AEU remains concerned that the Morrison government will try to use these funding negotiations to introduce punitive targets for student attendance and performance.

Federal AEU has written to the National Cabinet regarding the government’s intentions to vary the policy settings governing the existing Universal Access National Partnership agreement. The letter seeks assurance that government will abolish the condition that funding follows the child, and calls for secure funding for early childhood services and a national plan for three-year-old preschool.

AEU sector presidents are also meeting with their relevant state and territory ministers regarding the bilateral agreement negotiations. In Victoria, AEU branch president Meredith Peace and EC sector head Cara Nightingale met with the Minister for Early Childhood, Ingrid Stitt, in October. Minister Stitt reiterated her commitment to ensuring the agreement delivers certainty for four-year-old preschool, despite the federal ‘reform’ agenda.

The AEU remains concerned that the Morrison government will try to use these funding negotiations to introduce punitive targets for student attendance and performance.

As we move closer to the next federal election, the union will be organising campaign activities to put pressure on members of parliament, senators and candidates to make preschool funding a priority. We will be calling on all Australians to recognise the importance of early preschool education and to keep our youngest Australians in mind when they cast their vote.

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